If you don’t like to shop, and you don’t like to eat, Hong Kong is arguably not the place for you: Both are major activities here. (I’ve actually never encountered such a hot-bed of all kinds of retail.) Today, we experienced a blend of the two, plus a trip by funicular trolley to the Peak (Hong Kong is often hazy, but the platform up top—surrounded by two malls, of course—offers panoramic views of the island). We also took the famed Star Ferry, which costs 2.5 Hong Kong dollars (about .32 US), and is pretty thrilling, particularly if you’ve read all the James Clavell books. (In fact, if you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong, you have to read both Noble House and Tai Pan). The boat connects Kowloon and Hong Kong Island (you can get amazing views of the latter, from the former), and the shopping here is notably younger and more street-inspired.
As before, the shopping is kind of just all about the malls…
China Arts & Crafts: Intricately carved ivory statues for millions of Hong Kong dollars dot the bottom floor of this gallery-like mainstay, which offers a visual crash course in the history of Chinese arts and crafts. Upstairs, there’s embroidery galore, plus hand-painted snuff bottles, cheongsams, and enameled statues.
This ranges along the waterfront and offers a really cool mix of brands-you’ve-never-heard-of and established Americans. There’s 3.1 Philip Lim, and Juicy Couture, and then brands like Balmain. Beams, which is a great Japanese chain is here, there’s a denim-centric D-Mop, an Alessi, a Joyce, a Kiehl’s, etc. There’s also a Muji and a Uniqlo: Both are less expensive than their counterparts in the states.
Also: Mulberry, Ports 1961, Jimmy Choo, Roger Vivier, Pedder Red (a less-expensive variation on On Pedder), etc.
The One: Located on Nathan Road, this new shopping complex is super-vertical. I.e., there are only a handful of stores per floor, which means you keep ascending, and ascending. There aren’t many retailers here that you’ll recognize, which makes for a fun shopping experience, particularly because they range similarly-themed shops together. So you’ll hit the Tomboy-ish plaid shirt and argyle sweater store section, then you’ll get to the babydoll dresses and pinafore section, etc. This is partly because one huge fashion conglomerate, I.T (also the name of one of its shops) owns a lot of them, including Izzue, A Bathing Ape, Tout a Coup, Chocolate…confusing yes, so don’t think about it, and just enjoy the shopping.
Standouts include: Beams, the Japanese chainlet, a huge Homeless, which occupies a series of shipping containers, the Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar, and Cocktail, which showcases lots of local talents like Johanna Ho, Daydream Nation, and stand-out jewelry line Venna. (There are a few around the city, including another outpost at Harbour City.) Also, don’t miss Uuu…Shoop! which is avant-garde in a way that gives that concept new meaning.
Inital: Like Homeless, Initials are scattered across the city, though the shop on Cameron Road also boasts a cafe, and offers the perfect opportunity for a coffee break (the best latte we’ve had). The shops are styled like other-worldly fairy lands—like what Baz Luhrmann would open if he decided to leave movies and do a concept shop in Japan. So in other words, they’re rad: They do their own line, but mix it in with labels you’ll recognize from the states, like Vanessa Comey and Tucker.
This is the smallest center of the bunch: There’s a giant Muji though, and a quiet Uniqlo (I snapped up a bunch of t-shirts from their very surprising Laura Ashley collaboration). There are also some good streetwear shops for guys, most notably a store called Double Park (part of I.T), and the Carhartt. Yes, there’s a Carhartt, full of things I don’t think they sell in the U.S.
Temple Street Night Market:
After 6pm, Temple Street close to Mong Kok turns into a night market. (According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Mong Kok is the most densely populated area in the world: 340,000 people per square mile.) As expected, there aren’t that many things that you would actually want to buy: There’s a lot of mass-produced plastic junk, a lot of Angry Bird toys, a smattering of sex toys, and cheap jade galore. If you voyage north some more, you’ll come to the Ladies Market, which specializes in similar things.
Breakfast: We started our day at Café Grey, the Michelin-starred restaurant attached toThe Upper House (more on this later), the hotel where we’re living this week. It feels like a ship up there (it’s on the 49th floor), offering sweeping views of Hong Kong and flat-out delicious breakfast: Dim Sum, papaya salad, chocolate chip pancakes. We pretty much rolled up there in our pajamas, but it’s clearly a power-breakfast spot so we ate amongst a sea of businessmen.
Lunch: Dim sum at Super Star Seafood Restaurant, a local Hong Kong chain that has superlative dumplings and pork buns—it did not feel tourist-y at all, i.e., we would have had difficulty ordering if we weren’t with my friend Josh.
Dinner: On a handful of recommendations, we ate at Hutong, which is on the 28th floor of a building in Kowloon that faces Hong Kong Island. The panorama at night is spectacular (though the 8pm light show is a bit much…think laser beams et al), and the restaurant is really well-conceived. It’s styled after an old-world village, dotted with antiques, and lit by red lanterns—the cuisine is Northern Chinese. We weren’t that adventurous—green beans with pork and chilis, asparagus coated in white sesame, etc.—but it was both delicious and spicy.